Illustration February 8, 2016
by Lauren Festa
It’s Illustration Month at the ADC and we’re featuring some glowing work from our ADC Members. Not a member yet? Resolve to become an ADC Member in 2016 while you sip green juices and join the community. Illustration Month is our chance to highlight ADC Members who consider themselves illustrators, whether professionals, students or just really keen amateurs. If the apple truly doesn’t fall far from the tree, then Andrea Acevedo picks up the pencil where her mother, who was an illustrator in the 70’s, left off. Besides trees where apples may very well fall from, Andrea draws friendly-versions of vermin – think mice, squirrels, raccoons – in uncanny situations. Obsessed with color and form, Andrea translates bright colors and bold shapes into illustrations we can’t help but get warm and fuzzy over. Check our our interview below and try and spot Andrea in her natural habitat in real life – that is, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a pencil in hand.
When did you discover your own talent and then later turn it into a viable working gig?
I always loved to draw and in particular I loved to illustrate. As a kid I would create posters for fake movies, book covers with made-up titles, business cards and tags for stores I imagined in my head. I was a little weird. My parents encouraged me from a young age, they are both artists themselves so I was exposed to the notion I could earn a living from it early-on.
How long have you been an illustrator?
I’ve been working in the design field for about 15 years and often incorporate my illustration as part of that.
Self taught? School?
Both. My mother is an illustrator so I learned from watching her first. Then I practiced it more seriously beginning in High School. I went to LaGuardia H.S. in New York where you could concentrate in visual art. It was such a great experience. I took classes in life drawing, oil painting, printmaking, photography, typography—for a 15 year-old it was a great introduction. Then I went on to Boston University and Central Saint Martins and continued my studies there with a degree in Graphic Design and Narrative Design respectively.
Was a career in the arts encouraged from a young age?
Definitely, my parents are both artistic and made sure I had access to books and tools to grow as an artist. My dad loved to work with stained glass but his full-time job was as an electrician so he had me illustrate his business cards and letterhead when I was 10. I drew a man pulling out a plug and getting electrocuted. Probably not the wisest choice of image for getting people to trust your handiwork but my Dad loved it and used it for many years. It was my first illustration gig.
Take us through your creative process.
I’m going to be really cliché and say lots of coffee. I run on the stuff. After that crucial step, I usually start off asking lots of questions. I try to get a sense of who the client is, what they’re trying to say and where my perspective and style intersects with theirs. Then I start pulling images or researching the subject. Often I’ll go out with my sketchbook and camera and get some inspiration. I’ll take a walk around the city, visit a museum or gallery and just let my mind be open to seeing things in new ways. I’ll take those sketches and start to refine and drill down to where I’ve got a solid idea and then flesh that out.
In illustrating, what are the tools you can’t live without?
A pencil. Seriously, there is nothing more lovely than a freshly sharpened piece of graphite. And the impermanence of pencil frees the mind from overthinking things. It allows you to explore with your hand and I think that’s where some of the most interesting work starts out. I also have an iPad and stylus which I love but it’s just not the same.
What is one of the most exciting projects or a favorite one you’ve worked on or are working on?
I really enjoyed working on the window illustration for Zizzi Restaurants in London. It was very different to anything I had done before. They had a wall of windows where I live-illustrated for 4 days while people ate and drank around me. It was performance illustration, if there is such a thing. It culminated in a party on the last day and I invited people to join in and help color the last section of the piece as part of the ‘performance’. It was great fun!
How do you describe your aesthetic?
Obsessed with form and color. I love exploring those two.
What is the biggest challenge about being an illustrator?
Getting people to take you seriously.
What do you love most about it?
As with design, I love the challenge of always learning about different subjects or ideas and creating something new out of that.
Any dream collaborations or brands you’d like to work with?
I don’t really have a dream brand. For me, it depends on the project. Brands are doing so much these days that I think you find really cool projects coming from all sorts of places. Plus I like a challenge, I’m intrigued by industries that have usually been underserved in the aesthetic department like government or social services. I think there’s a lot of interesting work starting to happen in those areas.
Where is your favorite place to go or thing to do to get inspired?
I love wandering around The Metropolitan Museum of Art and getting lost in the stylized forms of Mycenaean vases or patterns in Islamic tile. The sophistication you see in a design thousands of years old amazes me and gives me a fresh perspective on my work.
Any contemporary artists on your radar? (illustrators or other)
There’s so many! I love the use of color and brush work in a David Hockney. I recently saw the Kehinde Wiley show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and was blown away by the beautiful patterning in his work. A young illustrator I really admire is Hattie Stewart, her illustrations are just so exciting to look at.
For anyone considering illustration as a career or just something to try for curiosities sake, do you have any advice?
When my mother was an illustrator in the early 70s, you needed an agent. With technology, you don’t have those barriers anymore; there’s so much you can do to get started and get your work out there. But that brings with it more competition for attention so I think the challenge is to find a way to stand out and do something unusual. Find a subject that you have a unique perspective on and create your own project.